5 Numbers I’m Proud of From 2020

2020 was a dumpster fire. I’m not negotiating on this. It tested me in ways that I didn’t want to be tested. My family suffered loss that still stings enough to make me cringe at the thought of mining the last calendar year for silver linings. The teaching profession that has seeped into every fiber of my being got turned upside down. Toilet paper became a prized possession. 

It was not a great year. 

But in the true money nerd fashion, I did spend a bit of time at the end of 2020 looking at our numbers. Thanks to a stock market that is completely severed from most people’s day-to-day realities, our financials look good. Really good, in fact. 

But there’s one teeny number from 2020 that actually means more to me than anything else. (Spoiler: Using your parachute comes with a cost, and it’s worth every dang penny.)


I hit six figures in my Roth IRA during 2020. This is the magic of the market more than anything else, but it’s nice to see the payoff after years of consistently investing.

Especially considering the fact that up until five years ago, my Roth was collecting cobwebs in a bank CD!

RELATED POST: 5 Years, 6 Figures: A Blog Anniversary Celebration


After finally getting a low cost investment option, I opened a 403b through my work. I upped my contributions another $50 per paycheck to start this most recent school year. Before that, I played a game where every time I felt really frustrated at work, I would email my business office to bump up my contribution another $10 or $25 per paycheck.

Thanks to that frustration and more investing bravado, my 403b is plumping up nicely. (If you must know, I’m currently adding $700 per month to start this new year.)

Hopefully, the 2021-2022 will be more certainty to our financial situations and education in general. Then, I really want to roll up my sleeves to see what I can do here.


This is our current mortgage balance. Long-time readers (if there are any of those left!) know that I hate our mortgage. I started blogging thinking that I was debt free.

Not so fast, Penny.

I actually had over $200,000 worth of debt to contend with as a 27 year old, thanks to our mortgage. I had just never phrased it that way: debt.

We’ve worked hard to pay it off, moving in stops and starts. While it’s fun to make double and triple payments when we can, it’s even more fun to think that all this process started with a few extra dollars.

RELATED POST: How I Fell into Six Figures of Debt Without Noticing


Our Christmas spending came in under budget this year thanks to having a Christmas like no other. A few grab bags that we normally participate in were cancelled, and I phoned it on cooking anything outside of our regular grocery budget.

And, um, maybe I’ll send Easter cards or something this year.

While I know this number may look high to some people, we do buy gifts for over a dozen people and we also include special holiday giving in our Christmas budget.

That’s why one of the first things I did when the calendar flipped to 2021 was to create a savings account specific to Christmas 2021. We want to spend in ways that matter to us (shop small!) on people we love without regret…or debt.


This number is actually the number I am most proud of in 2020.

That’s all the money my husband received on leave.

For three-plus months.

We were actually thrilled beyond measure that he earned anything at all.

During the time he was on leave under FFCRA, I actually stopped looking at our budget very closely. We knew that we were making a decision based on time and safety, not finances. Whether we could float each month with my income and his (very) partial pay or we would dip into savings, it wasn’t going to change our decision.

So we stuck to it. Building FU money is a lot more fun than spending FU money. But if it bought my family time and safety, it’s easily my favorite money number of 2020.

RELATED POST: 5 Things My Husband’s FFCRA Leave Taught Us

So Tell Me…Did you uncover any proud-moment numbers when you thought about 2020? What numbers are you focusing on in 2021?


  1. Penny, what a year. What a year for teachers. In NC, teachers are scheduled to get the vaccine in a couple of weeks. Hope that is true for you guys, too. Here’s to the hope that our next school year will
    look way different than this one!

    • Thanks so much, Laurie! Glad the rollout is happening soon by you. We just got an estimate from our district saying late February. We shall see!

  2. I hit a $75k income for the first time this year. And my net worth shot up by $107k even with spending about half of that $75k income ? Thankful to have started investing when I was younger so I can capitalize on that growth now as an old man ?

    • Christmas spending is so much fun for me! I really love gift giving (and I think I’m pretty darn good at it!). As long as it’s in the budget, I figure we are good to go!

  3. Those are AMAZING numbers Penny. You *should* be proud. I’m excited to see your mortgage shrink! We are aggressively paying ours off and I have a quiet hope in the depths of my heart that we can pay it off in 2021. And I’m so happy that Mr. P was able to take FFCRA leave. I’m super excited to see your 2021 wins next January!

  4. This is a silly one but in 2019, I had projected a savings and investing total for 2020 with absolutely no idea how many variables would get knocked off the table. Yesterday I discovered that my estimate was only off by about $6000. Trivial but nice!

    Also I had expected some growth in JB’s 529 but it crossed the six figure mark this year! That much was not at all expected.

  5. Loved seeing this unique way of summing up the year, and WOW, I can only imagine how good it feels to have that little mortgage debt left AND be hitting six figures in your retirement! Those are both goals we’re working towards, but it will be awhile before we’re there. Thanks for the motivation, and I hope your 2021 is more peaceful <3

  6. Totally with you re: cringing at the thought of mining the calendar for silver linings. 2020 was not a great year — but I really enjoyed this way of looking at some of the good — and these numbers and their stories are really great ! Even though it’s off to an interesting start (to say the least), here’s hoping 2021 is a better year.

  7. Woohoo Penny! Those are fantastic numbers. What a tough year 2020 was, especially for teachers. Do stay safe & healthy. Really hope we will be able to see each other in person and chat in the near future. 🙂

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